A tradition of a "heavenly book" runs through many traditions, including Mormonism with its "gold plates." What spiritual reality might these traditions be pointing to?
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.
The "Urim & Thummim" were perhaps Joseph's own eyes, which in a mystical state of consciousness could "see" the visionary "plates." He lost these "gifts" for a time.
A new translation of Joseph Smith's First Vision.
I introduce a new translation of Joseph Smith's First Vision, giving some background to this interpretation of his mystical experience, the nature of translation, its pseudepigraphal nature, how it was done, and more.
If Joseph made the plates he had in his possession, then didn't he lie in saying otherwise? Maybe there is more to it, which ties into the mystical nature of his visions.
I suggest that Joseph Smith's earliest direct encounters with God happened in mystical experience, or what is also known as altered states of consciousness.
There was a fascinating show that my wife and I watched last night on Mind Field with Vsauce (Michael Stevens). It was season 3, episode 7, titled "Behavior and Belief."
Mormonism traces back its history in modern times to its founding prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and his "First Vision." Joseph was a young farmer boy who lived in western New York, born in the early nineteenth century. This was the time of what's known as the Second Great Awakening, and where Joseph lived is known as the "burned-over district." It was a time of much Protestant religious excitement, revivals, reforms, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations (which eventually included Mormonism). A Restoration Movement grew in popularity in the area, which involved ideas of "restoring" a pure, primitive, uncorrupted, and original form of Christian faith.
Two readers posted comments recently on my article about Joseph Smith as tertön and the Book of Mormon as terma. They were both similar in questioning the idea that the Book of Mormon may not be a historical text.