Form Criticism of Joseph Smith's 1823 Vision of the Angel Moroni
Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought
Thomas employs form criticism to identify the original historic core of Joseph Smith's 1823 vision of the angel Moroni. To do this, he examines some details of the vision including Moroni's citation of Malachi 3 and 4. He also examined some historical traditions preceding the 1823 vision including magic/money digging, 19th-century visionaries, a tradition of buried books, etc. He determined that 'no historical anachronisms exist in the original core narratives.' He reasons that Joseph Smith 'very likely had an actual vision on the night of 21-22 September 1823.' He then discusses what it meant in the 19th century to have a vision. From this analysis he concludes the essay with a description of the core elements of what can rationally be presumed to have happened during Joseph Smith's 1823 vision.