We were left with a bit of a cliff hanger at the end of general conference this year—the promise of a unique general conference next April celebrating the 200th anniversary of the year Joseph Smith said he experienced the First Vision. President Russell M. Nelson spoke briefly of various events in Church history, including the First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Priesthood, and the foundation of various Church organizations. He then encouraged us to: “prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.” Among that preparation was the suggestion to: “begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price” as well as the Book of Mormon resources that the Church is currently releasing. From that launching point, he encouraged us to: “Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration. As you do, general conference next April will be not only memorable; it will be unforgettable.”
With this challenge to study in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of resources that focus on the First Vision that I have found insightful or interesting. In compiling this list, I have mostly focused on resources that are available online. The list is not comprehensive and I’m sure that there are plenty of valuable and interesting resources that I’ve missed. Feel free to post more in the comments.
The Church has made resources available to study about the First Vision, including the known accounts of the vision. If you read nothing else, take the time to read through all of these accounts (via the first link). My personal favorite is the 1832 account, which I wish was included in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith book chapter on the First Vision.
There are also two gospel topics essays listed below—one a general introduction and one that tries to respond to some concerns about the accounts of the First Vision. There are a ton of links to other articles about the First Vision on the gospel topics essay pages, so there’s plenty to explore there. The other two links I’ve placed below are to chapters in official Church manuals that discuss the First Vision to give some context and ideas for reflection.
Church-sponsored Podcasts and Videos:
Critical Point of View:
I feel like it’s a good thing to be able to see what the Church is responding to and to understand what concerns people have. Doing so often pushes me to develop a more nuanced view of the issue at hand. I know that not everyone feels the same way about approaching contrary viewpoints, though. I also know that there is no dearth of websites and blogs and podcasts delving into the issues surrounding the First Vision, but MormonThink provides a good summary of what critics of the Church find concerning about the First Vision and how it’s treated.
Scholarly Articles about the First Vision:
There are a lot of important articles about the First Vision that have been published over the years. The top ones that I recommend reading if your time is limited are James B. Allen’s “Emergence of a Fundamental” and “The Significance of Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ in Mormon Thought,” Richard Lyman Bushman’s “The Visionary World of Joseph Smith,” and Dean C. Jessee’s “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.”
For a collection of important articles, see Samuel Alonzo Dodge and Steven C. Harper’s Exploring the First Vision, available online through BYU’s Religious Studies Center. Links to the articles listed below that also appear in this collection are posted at the end of the citations (as “see also here”) and are often more easily accessible than the original publications.
Since this post was originally published, a special issue of BYU Studies was published in summer 2020 that focused on the First Vision and is worth a read. I have added a few of the more interesting and important articles from this issue below, though if you want to be more thorough, I recommend exploring the whole issue.
Godfrey, Matthew, “The Second Sacred Grove: The Influence of Greenville, Indiana, on Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision Account,” Journal of Mormon History 44, no. 4 (2018). (Note: this will become available to non-subscribers in about 4 years.)
Prince, Gregory A. “Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Historical Context: How a Historical Narrative became Theological,” Journal of Mormon History Vol. 41, No. 4 (2015): 74-94.
Some Interesting Articles and Blog Posts:
 Russell M. Nelson, “Closing Remarks,” CR October 2019, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/10/57nelson?lang=eng. See also https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2019-10-06/general-conference-october-2019-first-vision-joseph-smith-163457.