“It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” I grew up hearing that as a campfire song, and took a certain meaning from it through my own interpretation as something along the lines of the little things you do can have a big impact. That has become clear with visitors at the CofC historic sites.
Sometimes this “spark” lights a fire of tension between visitors and guides. Starting off tours in Nauvoo, we traditionally show a 12 minute video before heading off to visit the homes. In this video is a line, one which I had heard many times but never gave a second thought about, which seems to infuriate many visitors and leave them permanently annoyed throughout the visit.
Talking about Joseph Smith’s first vision: “In a quite grove of trees near his upstate New York home, Joseph prayed for guidance and there had an experience with the divine.”
Harmless to me, but borderline blasphemy to others. In my experience, no single question has more often accompanied the start of the tour than a visitor asking for clarification about that point and why the Community of Christ chose that language to describe it.
I’m well aware of the multiple versions of what happened out there in the grove, which is why I believe it is worded the way it is in the video. ( http://en.fairmormon.org/First_Vision/Accounts This is the best website I could find with the different accounts in a quick search, I’m sure there must be a better option out there.) That’s the point I try to explain, but it rarely (if ever) makes it across the way I intended. It usually just gets crossed arms and a glare, with an occasional nod of understanding, even if in disagreement.
My wondering is: why does this even matter? Why is this such a big deal to some, and a seeming non-issue to others? Does the Community of Christ even care about what did or did not happen in the grove, if anything happened at all?
Taking the tour through the Independence Temple sometime back, I remember the entrance to the worshipper’s path was designed to replicate the grove in New York. Clearly it had some significance to somebody at that point. It was chosen as the starting point for entrance to the sanctuary.
Does the “First Vision” matter in the present-day CofC? What, if anything, might it mean? Why’d we put it in the Temple? Did this vision even happen at all? Does any of this debate even matter or is it all a waste of time? What does this event (in whatever understanding you may have of it) mean to the CofC in late-June 2009, or what did it used to mean to the Church or to you?