"In all recorded religious history there is nothing to compare with it. The New Testament recounts the baptism of Jesus when the voice of God was heard and the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove. At the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw the Lord transfigured before them. They heard the voice of the Father, but they did not see him. Why did both the Father and the Son come to a boy, a mere lad? For one thing, they came to usher in the greatest gospel dispensation of all time, when all previous dispensations should be gathered and brought together in one" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Marvelous Foundation of our Faith," Ensign, Nov. 2002, 80).
Joseph Smith prepared four accounts of his First Vision, recorded in 1832, 1835, 1838 (now in the Pearl of Great Price) and 1842. Four other accounts, recorded by contemporaries, include Orson Pratt in 1840, Orson Hyde in 1842, David Nye White in 1843 and Alexander Neibaur, who listened to Joseph's experience in May 1844, just weeks before the Martyrdom. An early convert, Edward Stevenson, recalled the Prophet saying, "I am a witness that there is a God, for I saw Him in open day, while praying in a silent grove, in the spring of 1820." Said Stevenson, "O how these words thrilled my entire system, and filled me with joy unspeakable—to behold one who, like Paul the apostle of olden time, could with boldness testify that he had been in the presence of Jesus Christ!" (Joseph Grant Stevenson, ed., Stevenson Family History , 1:21).
It was a two year period. In his earliest written account of the First Vision, Joseph indicated that from about the age of 12 he had "concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul, which led me to searching the scriptures, . . . [and] pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world" (History 1832, p. 2, Letter Book 1, 1829–35, Joseph Smith, Collection, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; spelling and punctuation modernized; reprinted in Dean C. Jessee, comp., Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, , 10).