The fact that there are two APPARENTLY contradictory versions of the first vision, gives critics of Joseph Smith a lot of indigestion.
I personally find it one of the amazing proofs of the truthfulness of the restoration and one of the great keys to understanding the mystery of Godliness.
Did “GOD” (singular) appear to Joseph Smith or did the FATHER and the SON (plural) appear to Joseph Smith?
I believe the answer is YES.
And I don’t see any contradiction.
I think both manifestations took place even though each version of the experience only focused on one aspect of the revealing of God.
Interestingly, it is the same exact controversy that Christians have been debating for centuries.
You have the same exact dilemma in the Bible.
There are countless passages that clearly prove that the Father and the Son are ONE GOD. They are ONE BEING. One personage.
At the same time, there are countless passages that clearly illustrate and prove that the Father and the Son are TWO SEPARATE and DISTINCT beings who literally have conversations with each other. Indeed the Father “SENDS” the Son and is “WELL PLEASED” with the son.
Because the human condition with it’s limitations, finds it difficult to comprehend the magnificence and mystery of Godliness, most Christians simply choose which of the APPARENT options they feel comfortable with and believe it over the other one, while conflicted with the knowledge that there are passages of scripture that challenge their understanding of God.
I believe that Lectures on Faith in conjunction with other passages of scripture provides the key to demystifying the dilemma:
“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things—by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible: whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space—They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;—he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father..”
Modern revelation and ancient scripture build upon the above intelligence to inform us that Christ dwells within the Father and the Father dwells in the Son:
Section 93 illuminates the discussion with Christ declaring that-
“..I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one-”
(see also John 1:18 and D&C 76:13)
My contention after studying Lectures and all related passages of scripture having to do with the nature of God and the passages referencing the Father and the Son, has been that the Father is indeed a personage of spirit that dwells in the personage of tabernacle that He created for His only begotten Son. Yet the Father and the Son, who are two intelligence’s within ONE PERSONAGE OF GOD, have the ability to separate from each other and communicate with each other when expedient to achieve their purposes in dealing with their creations.
There is a celestial synergy in their oneness that we will not comprehend until after we have been quickened.
The modern orthodox version teaches that the Father and the Son are ONE only in unified purpose.
However it is a cop-out to suggest that is the extent of their ONENESS. They are quite literally ONE in Mind and in physical tabernacle, even though they constitute two intelligences.
It is however important to realize that the Father has always been in the current state that he is in, while the Son has been added upon to achieve his current state.
I find it significant to note that the Father is the only Sovereign, Omnipotent, Supreme Being that is Self-Existent and that there are no other self-existent beings besides the Father that gain their power and authority from other beings besides the Eternal FAther, nor are their any other Self-Existent Gods apart from the Father. That is what is being communicated when God informs us that there are no other Gods BESIDE me.(Isaiah 45:5) The term “beside me” in that context refers to any being that functions independently outside of the Fathers power and domain.
The Father is not a created being like the Son who He “fashioned” in His own likeness. The Son and all other fashioned (created) beings derive their power and authority from the Father.
Yes the Son, and other sons of God can obtain the Fulness of the Father and and be filled with His power. Therefore through this mystical divine investiture, they can claim all of His attributes, but they have all been fashioned by the Father and derive their power from Him.
Getting back to the age-old controversy of whether the Father and the Son are One God (singular) or Two Gods (plural) I find the following scripture in Ether quite remarkable because rather than only depicting one aspect of the nature and character of God relative to the relationship between Father and Son, it is one of the very rare passages of scripture that incorporates the APPARENT contradiction within one single passage of scripture:
12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.
Yes, good only comes from Him..
and the Father sent him..
Oh, and by the way, He is the Father…