Conflation Happens: Nice Work by Michael Quinn on the First Vision

Joseph Smith’s Experience of a Methodist ‘Camp Meeting’ in 1820” is an valuable recent contribution from D. Michael Quinn for (Hat tip to Elden Watson.) Quinn provides extensive documentation about the revival activities in Joseph’s area and effectively addresses the common anti-Mormon argument that the First Vision account must be fraudulent based on the allegation that there were no revivals around 1820 in Joseph’s area, or based on Joseph’s apparent conflation of some later events with events in 1820. I think this needs to be an essential resource to consider in dealing with several issues associated with the First Vision.

In addition to providing support for the existence of camp meetings in the time frame Joseph Smith gives, Quinn also demonstrates that it is quite common for people to combine related events from different times in their relation of actual historical events. The conflation of some similar events from different years in sharing an experience does not invalidate the experience.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

18 thoughts on “Conflation Happens: Nice Work by Michael Quinn on the First Vision

  1. Jeff,

    That is nice work because it has been commonly held that no revival meetings took place during that time period.

    Now to work on the multiple versions of the first vision.

  2. Jeff, that should read conflation of events in 1824. The argument is that JS conflated events in 1824 with his account of what happened in 1820.

  3. Once a liar, always a liar, right?

    A zebra don’t change its spots, right?

    Point being, at least in theory, work must be judged on a case by case basis. If Quinn be misrepresenting facts (a far more fair accuastion than “lying”), let the hand of critical analysis decide.

    At least, were I historian, that’s what I would hope readers would do for me.

  4. I actually enjoyed this artilce by Quinn. Back in February he spoke at a Sunstone Sym. here in Tempe, AZ. When he spoke I made the remark to my parents that it was hard to believe that he is an ex’d member of our church.

    The point that he made in this article that really stands out to me is when he said that most accounts that were written about this evert, were written many years after the fact, & that it is easy for people when they reflect many years back, to mix events into happening at the same time.

  5. While Quinn often conflates the definition of “facts” and “truth,” it is nice to see that he is choosing in this article to select facts for his reporting that promote the truth about the Church rather than his usual reporting which does not. It just proves that even those with an agenda against the Church can sometimes tell the truth in order to improve their credibility with the faithful. Of course, even most of what the devil teaches is true. If all of what he teaches was false, he couldn’t fool anybody.

  6. To say that Quinn is a liar, or that he occasionally prints something faith promoting in order to later (or earlier) decieve seems to me to be a distortion, or a mis-understanding of Quinn and also the role of historians in general.

    Sometimes a historian must propose a theory that the data seems to suggest, and then build a case for that theory. Quinn has done this, as have most other Mormon historians. That Quinn has proposed interpretations that don’t conform to traditional interpretation does not mean that Quinn is dishonest. And if theories or interpretations he has proposed are later shown to be unsound, does not mean Quinn is evil or a bad historian. That he productively participates in the greater historical conversation is what is important – and that when he speaks, we all listen carefully, whether we may agree or not.

    That, IMO is a courageous approach and should be appreciated. I personally find it unfortunate that he has been punished and maligned because he pushed new information and understanding to to the world of modern Mormon history. Quinn has been, and apparently continues to be a key player in the quest for truth and understanding in the market place of ideas in Mormon history.

  7. Evidence is evidence is evidence. Let’s not forget that raw facts and documents rest are underneath these “theories” and “approaches.” The question is: which theory BEST explains all the facts on hand?

    History has a certain element of science to it, in this regard. Can you prove Quinn wrong in some regard, that he’s overlooked something or not taking something into account? That’s the question. As far as his faithfulness goes, that’s essentially irrelevant to me unless someone who does not have the cold discipline of a historian gets their hands on his work.

  8. “The evil spirit (assuming that they’re the same being–I do) teacheth a man not to pray” (2 Nephi 32:8-9)

  9. Walker,

    Those scriptures say nothing about how, when, or where this happens. They merely state that it happens.

    I don’t understand how this works. I have never seen, or engaged in conversation with the devil. How can he teach me anything?

  10. “Conversations with the Devil”–sounds like the title of a bad religious thriller.

    Well, think of times you don’t feel like praying. How do you become convinced that you don’t need to/don’t want to/can’t pray? However you’re convinced, that’s how the devil teaches.

  11. If I decide to or not to pray (for whatever reason) that is my decision, my thought process. There is no evil spirit prompting me to do wrong. If I do something wrong, it is my doing. Satan has no control over me or anyone else.

  12. Yes that is Adam ondi Ahman. You can verify this by looking at other maps.
    What on earth are they doing there.
    I know the church does several types of for-profit experimental operations at the Deseret Ranch (like shell mining etc), but this looks like land clearing in preparation for building. A lot of it. Does anyone know?

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