I created a graphic to better illustrate the evolution (or devolution) from mysticism to religion to politics, and back again, as originally modeled by David Steindl-Rast.
The earliest known account of First Vision may not be the one in 1832, but many esoteric accounts in April-June 1829, in the Book of Mormon text itself.
What is the relationship between mysticism and religion? It is perhaps a cycle, which begins in mysticism and ends in fundamentalist dogmatic religion, and politics, where it begins again.
Yes, actually, I think there is a Way. But it's perhaps not the Way that most people think, desire, or hope, but I suggest it is Divine.
Mythologies run in cycles. We may be in the middle of a massive paradigm shift in the myths which point to our deepest meaning and identity in the cosmos.
We are perhaps the most conscious and self-aware lifeforms on the planet today, but humans were not inevitable, and we may have a far different future than we imagine. How do we find peace in that?
Is there something beyond traditional moral notions of right and wrong? Is there a higher Law that transcends all other laws? Mysticism has something to say about that.
And, what many may not know, there were many "Christs" who came prior to Jesus, and who were not Jesus, nor do I think they were prefiguring or foreshadowing Jesus. They were the "Christs" in their own right, who came in their own time, who developed what it meant to be a "Christ" or "Messiah" in ancient Israel long before the word was ever applied to Jesus. I think it may be helpful to become acquainted with these "Christs/Messiahs" to better understand who Jesus was.
It's taken more time to write about this reconstruction, because it is perhaps a more sensitive subject, and more complex, than any I have written before about Mormonism or Christianity, yes, even more so than Jesus or Joseph Smith (which might be an indication that something is off-kilter). The Salt Lake City based Latter-day Saints take the Book of Mormon very seriously as a holy text, as scripture revealed by God, similar to the Bible, and perhaps even more important than the Bible. The Book of Mormon is one thing that makes them unique, their own testament of the divinity of "Jesus Christ," which they believe is also evidence of the unique prophethood of Joseph Smith and the divinity of the church he organized as God's "true church." But I think the truth may be much more nuanced.
It is true that traditionally God and Christ have been predominantly associated with the male gender and masculine principle (a "He"), at least in the West. What we need to decide today is if that traditional interpretation, these symbols of the Divine, are still valid, and accurate, and if they point to truth in the present, or if we need a better interpretation of these symbols as a society, a culture, in our interspirituality, in the world today.