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About Roger Nicholson

Roger Nicholson is a native of the San Francisco Bay area. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Brigham Young University in 1985 and a master’s in computer engineering from Santa Clara University in 1993. After spending several years editing LDS-related Wikipedia articles, he is currently an editor and administrator of the FAIR Wiki, sponsored by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research.

The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835

Abstract: In 1834, Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in installments in the pages of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. The first installment talks of the religious excitement and events that ultimately led to Joseph Smith’s First Vision at age 14. However, in the subsequent installment published two months later, Oliver claims that he made a mistake, correcting Joseph’s age from 14 to 17 and failing to make any direct mention of the First Vision. Oliver instead tells the story of Moroni’s visit, thus making it appear that the religious excitement led to Moroni’s visit.

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit. Continue reading

The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat, and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer’s View of the Book of Mormon Translation

Abstract: This essay seeks to examine the Book of Mormon translation method from the perspective of a regular, nonscholarly, believing member in the twenty-first century, by taking into account both what is learned in Church and what can be learned from historical records that are now easily available. What do we know? What should we know? How can a believing Latter-day Saint reconcile apparently conflicting accounts of the translation process? An examination of the historical sources is used to provide us with a fuller and more complete understanding of the complexity that exists in the early events of the Restoration. These accounts come from both believing and nonbelieving sources, and some skepticism ought to be employed in choosing to accept some of the interpretations offered by some of these sources as fact. However, an examination of these sources provides a larger picture, and the answers to these questions provide an enlightening look into Church history and the evolution of the translation story. This essay focuses primarily on the methods and instruments used in the translation process and how a faithful Latter-day Saint might view these as further evidence of truthfulness of the restored Gospel. Continue reading

Mormonism and Wikipedia: The Church History That “Anyone Can Edit”

Abstract: The ability to quickly and easily access literature critical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been made significantly easier through the advent of the Internet. One of the primary sites that dominates search engine results is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit.” Wikipedia contains a large number of articles related to Mormonism that are edited by believers, critics, and neutral parties. The reliability of information regarding the Church and its history is subject to the biases of the editors who choose to modify those articles. Even if a wiki article is thoroughly sourced, editors sometimes employ source material in a manner that supports their bias. This essay explores the dynamics behind the creation of Wikipedia articles about the Church, the role that believers and critics play in that process, and the reliability of the information produced in the resulting wiki articles. Continue reading