Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Mormon Studies Review

Article Title

Sounding Mormonism


The restoration, or founding of the LDS Church, begins with a sonic battle of wills: “My toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that I could not utter.” In this opening scene of Mormonism, the young prophet-to-be, Joseph Smith, tries but fails to pray aloud as his tongue is tied by the devil.1 When he finally succeeds in speaking, he sees a divine vision, accompanied by an inaugural command: to hear, or more precisely (in the canonical account of that event), “Hear Him!” Thus Smith is called to hear the words of Jesus Christ, who is hovering over his head in the woods of upstate New York. Though referred to as “the first vision,” this event is simultaneously steeped in sound and silence, in speech and its impossibility. Indeed, the only other direct quotation from the canonical account is Smith quoting Jesus quoting himself talking about preachers: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (JS—H 1:19; compare Matthew 15:8)