[Note: This is based on the concepts and thoughts on LessWrong.com, in the same way that the fanfic “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” is. I guess that makes this a kind of fanfic, which I never thought I would write. But I think viewing the entire thing as though it were true, but rational, would be helpful to someone somewhere. Please enjoy. Direct quotes from Joseph Smith History are italicized so you can quickly skim them]
I, Alvin Smith, have been commanded by God to make this record of most remarkable events, on behalf of my brother. I make it with my own hand, as a scribe on his behalf. What follows is his story:
I, Joseph Smith, having seen a vision of God the Father, and Jesus Christ, received instruction to make a record immediately so as to prevent evil and conspiring men from taking confusion as a counter to actual events, for God sees all things in advance, and is wise in his choices, therefore I make this record, this day September 6th 1820. And Alvin is a witness to all these events, for, as the Lord hath said, “in the Mouths of two or three witnesses, shall every word be established.”
I was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, on the twenty-third day of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, State of Vermont … My father, Joseph Smith, Sen., left the State of Vermont, and moved to Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) county, in the State of New York, when I was in my tenth year, or thereabouts. In about four years after my father’s arrival in Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester in the same county of Ontario—
His family consisting of eleven souls, namely, my father, Joseph Smith; my mother, Lucy Smith (whose name, previous to her marriage, was Mack, daughter of Solomon Mack); my brothers, Alvin (20), Hyrum, myself (14), Samuel Harrison, William, Don Carlos; and my sisters, Sophronia, Catherine, and Lucy.
I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. Indeed, I hope anyone in authority who reads these words will focus on the importance on not upbraiding those who lack wisdom, and ask questions. This is really important. Honestly.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—”This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
I then immediately asked which, of all the religions was correct. The one referred to as “Son” instructed me to return to my house forthwith, and retrieve my Brother Alvin, so that two witnesses would be present. Further he instructed me to bring paper and writing material that a Record might be kept. For, he said, a record would be very key to his true people, and journals and other records would be a might part of this work. And whereas I am not mighty in writing, Alvin would write the words which I would say.
And I did so, and My brother and I did return to the spot, and The Lord was still there, and I did again enquire of him which of all the churches was correct.
And the Lord said, “How can you tell if a church or religion is correct? What tests have you run?”
And I replied, “Lord, I hadn’t though of testing religion. It seemed that I needed only to ask.”
And the Lord replied, “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right, but your study must be thorough long before you ask, therefore I ask ‘What tests have you run?'”
And I, Joseph had not run any tests, and therefore I answered, “I have constructed no tests as of yet.”
And the Lord said, “There are many who claim to be mine who are not. Therefore, I give unto you a first test, that you may tell truth from error, if any man should fail to use reason, but instead should assault the character or the name of his opponent, that man is not of me. And ye shall call the first test, “Ad Hominem.” Those who use it are not of me nor of mine, and thus if they cry, “lo here,” or, “lo there,” thou mayest know that they come not from me if they continue to say, “lo here, but there is Racca,” or, “low there, but here is a fool.”
“Now go forward and apply this test and then return and report unto me and more light and knowledge will be granted.”
And Alvin and I, Joseph, did go and think upon this test the Lord had given us, and did devise several of our own tests and we did return and report the next day.