Literary historian Terryl L. Givens referenced the visions of Moroni as "exhibit A" of Mormonism for nineteenth century believers. The 1823 visions constituted one of the core tenets of the religion as an underlying premise of The Book of Mormon. The significance of the visions, however, has not translated into many studies on the 1823 visions. This thesis seeks to fill portions of this gap by evaluating the visions within post-Revolutionary evangelical and treasure seeking culture. I contend that the visions drew upon various elements of the culture, but ultimately diverged from the culture. The introduction recounts the vision from the perspectives of Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, and Lucy Mack Smith. Chapter one provides a historiographical review of the literature and some methodological considerations. Chapter two describes the evangelical and treasure seeking cultures. The examination emphasizes the cultural belief in visions and dreams that contained angels, guides, guardians, or other preternatural beings. Chapter three examines the significance of the dates of the 1823 visions, September 21-22. Three traditions associated significance with the date, witchcraft, astrology, and Christianity. I show that either the date did not match with the holiday of these traditions or that Smith probably did not know of its significance. Many people called the vision a dream, which led Oliver Cowdery to refute that claim. Chapter four analyzes whether the visions constituted dreams or visions, before proceeding to evaluate the imagery of dreams and visions. Smith's visions lacked much of the imagery of other contemporary visionaries. Chapter five evaluates Moroni's message to Smith. I contend that Smith considered the plates a treasure and they fit the cultural pattern of treasure. Moroni, though, directed Smith's attention from the money seeking elements toward religious purposes. Many elements within the vision follow the cultural beliefs concerning visions and dreams, which make the visions appear as a cultural product. Careful evaluation of the details of the visions, shows however, the 1823 visions diverged from many cultural tenets.



College and Department

Religious Education; Church History and Doctrine



Date Submitted


Document Type





Joseph Smith, Moroni, Moroni Visions, Evangelical Dreams, Treasure Seeking, 1823 Visions, History of Joseph Smith