Notes on “Triangulating God”




This evening I am giving a presentation on triangulating God, but if you're here now, I assume it's because that's where you're coming from.

So, leaving niceties aside, let's get to those links you're here for.

Clicking on that black square will take you to the Oakland Stake's YouTube page. When my presentation is actually up and available, I'll add it to the bottom of this post. The audio may also appear as a special episode of Face in Hat. If so, that last sentence is now a link. (Or just check your favorite podcast source.)

These links are roughly in the order in which I presented them, but not exactly. For instance, links to Etsy or the Church's international art competition or books are clumped together. I've also included some works I wanted to include but just could not. I crammed a hundred and fifty things into a subhour presentation, but even speedtalking Theric has his limits.

In other words, the order here is by category and the categories are ordered, sort of, by how they appeared in the presentation.

I should also note that some things are not included here. There are several reasons why this may be. The original source has proven difficult to track down; it's something obvious (eg, the Articles of Faith, an album cover); I failed to keep track of where it came from; basic human failure. I preemptively apologize for all such errors now.

Joseph Smith's versions of the First Vision
The Joseph Smith Papers have them all

Although I didn't use this page, the BYU library has a nice summation of this history

"The Earliest Documented Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision" by Dean C. Jessee (the source I most relied on)

Orson Pratt's use of "first vision" in General Conference
do your own General Conference searches

text of his sermon

Methodist conversion stories
"Joseph Smith’s First Vision and Methodist Conversion Narratives" by Christopher Jones

"'Effusions of an Enthusiastic Brain': Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the Limits of Experiential Religion" by Jeremy Talmage

More on the Vision and Orson Pratt
The Vision

Orson Pratt

Random things from the first half
Images of Palmyra churches

Images of the Bay at night

Images yanked off Wikipedia: 1, 2, 3, 4

Image of Eliza R. Snow

Calvin's tweet

The first important piece of First Vision scholarship (now somewhat outdated)
"The Significance of Joseph Smith's 'First Vision' in Mormon Thought" by James B. Allen (update: just found a version of it in the Improvement Era!)

I took a class from Milt Backman once. Although I didn't use these, I still recommended:
His full book, the first booklength treatment of the different versions

His version for the laity

Steven C. Harper's thinking informed me quite a bit
"10 questions with Steven C. Harper"

His book: Amazon, Bookshop

(note that some of the links in this post that lead to commercial outlets may offer me a kickback)

BYU Studies just did a full issue on the First Vision; if they had released it a month earlier, they could have saved me a lot of time---Sweat's article gets into more detail to many of my ideas
Full issue

"Visualizing the Vision: The History and Future of First Vision Art" by Anthony Sweat

"Raising the Stakes: How Joseph Smith’s First Vision Became All or Nothing" by Steven C. Harper

"The First Vision as a Prehistory of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" by Kathleen Flake

Gideon Burton

Emma Lou Thayne

Bruce W. Jorgensen

Darlene Young: Amazon, Bookshop

James Goldberg

Eliza R. Snow: (a friend directed me to this poem via a recent collection, but I screenshot it here---which collection I just discovered is available in the Deseret Alphabet!)

Evan Stephens

Effing ineffable
"Rendering the Ineffable Effable: Treating Joseph Smith's First Vision in Imaginative Literature" by Richard H. Cracroft

Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The Fruits of the First Vision

Noah Van Sciver
1, 2

Nick Anderson
first Proclamation video

second Proclamation video

Brandon Flowers (slash The Killers)
"My Own Soul's Warning" (lyrics video)

Imploding the Mirage album (forthcoming) on Amazon, iTunes

"Only The Young" (official video)

Flamingo album on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Genius

While we're at it, here's that video with Charlize Theron.

Arcade Fire
"Antichrist Television Blues" videos

Neon Bible album on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Genius

"Tregan's Mettle" by Jack Harrell
under its original title

A Sense of Order: Amazon, Bookshop, my review

And two more short stories I fully intended to cram in but did not
Thom Duncan's "The Glowing"

Gabriel González Núñez's "Documentary Appendix 1"

Image sources
First known image

First image published by the Church

A lower-res but wider shot of Joseph F. Smith in the Grove than the one I used

"15 Beautiful Images of the First Vision"

from the Church

from Church History

The International Art Competition: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Gary Ernest Smith

Casey Jex Smith

Desert Prophet


Jorge Cocco Santángelo

Meg Sherlock

Galen Dara

Jenina Carriaga

Kid-generated images

Alliance of Covenant Artists

Stained glass: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Etsy (assmuming I didn't miss any and knowing there are some here I did not use): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

Commercial cites focused on sales of reproductions: 1, 2, 3

Commercial cite focused on originals (all the ones I used are sold): 1

Allll the Ben Crowder First Visions of which I only shared three

Information and images on Lane Twitchell
Parallel Lines of Second Sight (Beginnings, Visions, Translations, and the State of Union)

"Landscape and the American West" by Cherie K. Woodworth

The Best Two Years

The Fighting Preacher

1992 Oakland temple pageant

First Visions: preview, purchase

Other stuff from Arch-HIVE that didn't make the final cut:
"The Vision" by Gnome Chompsky (short story), "An Unusual Boy" by Jared Cook (short story), "Would God That All the Lord’s People Were Prophets" by The One Who Hies (essay)

Books mentioned
A Sense of Order (story collection): Amazon, Bookshop, my review

Seventh Son (novel): Amazon, Bookshop

Witchy Eye (novel): Amazon, Bookshop, my review

The Backslider (novel): Amazon, Bookshop, my review

The First Vision (piture book): Amazon

A Day Like No Other (photography collection): Amazon

A Pillar of Light (comic book): Amazon, my review

First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins (scholarship): Amazon, Bookshop

James Faulconer's

Heavenly Mother books: Dove Song (a/b), Mother's Milk (a), The Tree at the Center (a/b)

John Moeller's First Vision (soundscape)
Incidentally, I almost went with this music for the closing act instead

More on Wilum H. Pugmire

My interview with him

Truman Madsen

"Fire from Heaven"

I also had a folder of straight up kitsch, none of which made the final presentation
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

And that's it! Or, anyway, it's all you're getting!

Thanks for coming!

previous svithe
a svithe is an occasional
religiously-themed post
on a generally secular blog


Coast Guard Day's just a couple weeks away


In the old days, when people read blogs and people associated Coast Guard Day with celebrating Theric by showering him with gifts, I would sometimes post cheeky wishlists here on Thutopia. But then Obama ruined everything by becoming president and causing people to associated Coast Guard Day with HIS birthday rather than mine.

Thanks, Obama.

Anyway, for meatworld reasons, I have put some thought into what might delight me this year.


I just learned midcenturty scifi writer Ray Nelson lives on my street and I would like to read one of his novels. These two are most attractive:

Really, books that are out of print and which I am unlikely to just bump into on my own are great options. Like this one, the inspiration for childhood favorite Condorman

or something from Zenna Henderson whom I only just learned about and am much intrigued by. I honestly don't know which of her books I should start with, but probably one of the story collections featuring The People.

Which isn't to say I'm opposed to in-print books. Kingdom of Nauvoo and Let Me Tell You are both sitting in my Bookshop shopping cart right now, which reminds me of Bookshop.

Considering buying books there rather than Amazon. Their used selection's still lagging behind, but Kingdom of Nauvoo and Let Me Tell You are certainly available. And Bezos doesn't need our money.

On average, books on my wishlist are more exciting if I added them more recently---prose/poetry, comics---but exceptions abound.

Lady Steed and I recently listened to the first half of Dolly Parton's America and it made us sad that we don't own any dolly. But is it better to start listening to Dolly via her songs or via her albums? We don't know.

And for the gift that keeps on giving, I've always wanted a Believer subscription. Just sayin'.

And, on the off chance you don't want me to just sit and consume media, I'd like to get more into fermentation and this crock's my path, I'm certain.




048) iZOMBIE: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 4
049) iZOMBIE: uVAMPIRE by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 4
050) iZOMBIE: Six Feet Under & Rising by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 6
050) iZOMBIE: Repossession by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 6

I first read volume one nine years ago, but when I read volume two only half a year later, enough time had passed I already lost the thread. So I decided to wait until I owned the entire series before then reading through them all at once.

(Years pass.)

So many, in fact, that the tv show based upon these comics has since come and gone. And since I watched some of that (not much) it had pretty much replaced my memories of the comic and I was surprised to discover it's not a crime procedural.

Anyway, it's still a fun and innovative monster world but I do kind of wish it had stayed cozier rather than getting all cosmic and eldritch and end-of-the-worldy. But maybe that's just me.

It's a good use of Michael Allred. The ongoing problem of his characters mostly taking just a couple forms is ongoing, but it's amazing how much variety of character design he can do within that small range of faces and bodytypes. And it's clear he's capable of much more. He gets so much emotion into the chimp that I'm left desperate to see what he can really do. Stop making people pretty, Mike!

Volume four is longer and includes two issues drawn by guest artists, so I'm guessing Roberson's script went long---longer than Allred's contract. There's also some awkward bits---mostly caused by having to recap issues for new readers, but one at the end really felt like an editing error.

Anyway. It was good. I liked it. My only real complaint is the common comics choice to go really really big. I would have preferred more of the friends hanging out. But I guess that's not now limited series roll.
five or six days



And now we, in the name of that which is good, change our links from Amazon to Bookshop


043) God's Man by Lynd Ward, finished June 13

I've been meaning to revisit my Lynd Ward collection, but this book's appearance on this list was the motivation I needed to pull one down and sit with it.

Great book! It looks like it might have been my favorite the last time I read through all of them (or maybe those were just the only images online in 2013?), and it is a solid piece of work. I didn't make the connection when I read The Sculptor, but I'm sure Scott McCloud was doing some rereading of himself as he worked on that also-great comics novel.

Anyway, they are worldless and stark and quick to get through, but they are haunting and beautiful and worth anyone's time.

between tasks


044) Zot! 1987–1991 by Scott McCloud, finished June 17

Picking back up on the Covid Comics Extravaganza, I picked up my Zot! collection, which I bought a couple years before The Sculptor was even released but had never read.

And why had I never read it?

I think because I was afraid I would not like it. I admire Scott as a theorist and as a craftsman, but not all his fiction is great. DESTROY!! is just as dumb as he said it was and The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln is just as disappointing as he promised, and so his Grown Up slowness to praise Zot! translated into a larger caution sign than it ever deserved.

Because I think this collection is excellent.

The initial ten color issues are excluded for being too silly (and I'm sure it's true, but I wish they were easier to find today) and a couple other Zot! thingeys are also excluded which I'd love to see, but it does make sense to collect these issues as they are, together. The main absence I felt during reading was a lack of origin story. But I'm always complaining that the superhero world has too many origin stories, so I refuse to go home over that.

The book's split into two pieces. The first is the retro-zany superhero comic that zips between Zot's idealized Earth and our own. The second half happens after Zot gets trapped on our Earth and follows his friends in their humdrum normality.

I was excited to get to the second half---and, in the end, I did love that portion more---but the first half was also intelligent and thoughtful and properly mccloudian.

I admired this book so much. I just want to go read more McCloud now. And given I have four volumes of his work plus everything that exists online (including another Zot! story which I no longer remember) this feeling won't be hard to nurture.
probably over a week


045) Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, finished June 20

This is a short book and a delight to read. When I first read it, almost twenty years ago, I rushed through it was left shaking at the side of the road. (Then Tim Burton made a movie and I realized he had become a parody of himself.)

I don't often reread books, as an adult. And I'm not sure why I picked up Big Fish back there at the end of April. But I did. And I didn't rush through this time. I proceeded slowly, deliberately. I savored. But I worried that the novel wasn't having the effect it had on me the first time. And I suppose that's true. It made such an impact on me the first time, I don't know how it could. And my clearest memory was of its powerful ending. So that couldn't really sneak up on me. And yet: although I didn't think I was having quite enough experience, that ending did, again, move me. Maybe not to the extent it did first go-round, but absolutely it did.

This novel, for all its slightness, is a thing of beauty and power and majesty.

And if all you know is that movie, I pity you.
about a month and a half


046) Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz, finished June 24

I read this book on the recommendation of son #3. It's fine. It's as good as the Hardy Boys I read as a kid. It does do some dumb things it can only get away with by targeting an ignorant audience, but it was a fun read. I'm sure I would have loved it as a kid. It's trying to be progressive, but eighteen years have passed since this novel was released and a couple things sit heavily on the lines of racism and sexism that I imagine wouldn't pass muster today.

Anyway. Alex Rider. Did you know he would be 33 this year were he a real person? He's a Millennial!

The main thing this did was give me some drive to turn Hagoth into a series of novels. So-so kids novels do that to me.
three to four days, one of which was half the first chapter weeks before the other two or three


047) Exhalation by Ted Chiang, finished June 28

Like his first collection, Ted Chiang has expanded my idea of what can be done with science fiction today and how powerful short stories should be. I don't know, for instance, if he has any religious leanings himself, but he has again explored religion with as much care and nuance as anyone may, and with multiple stories. The shortest story in this collection is one I regularly teach. Two others I know I'd read before, but I have no idea how or when (their original publication information wasn't likely provenance.

A couple sentenced on each story:
The Merchant and the Alchemists's Gate
A time travel story sent in the medieval Islamic world. It's one of the Chiang stories that make me realize how lazy most of us are. I mean---why NOT a time travel story sent in the medieval Islamic world?
The heat-death of the universe reimagined for a clockwork world.
What's Expected of Us
This is the one I teach! But I access it here. It's also the shortest story in the collection.
The Lifecycle of Software Objects
This is the longest story in the collection (I've seen it as a standalone volume.) Lady Steed liked this one least, felt it dragged. I disagree in part because the effects of this story require living with the characters a long time.
Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny
Tastes so real.
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling
This will probably be the one that sticks with me longest, given how much time I've already spent pondering its implications. What will happen, when our own minds pass from oral to literate?
The Great Silence
This is one I know I've read before but no idea when. The parrots are talking, people! The parrots are talking!
A completely new take on faith vs science.
Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom
This, I think, was Lady Steed's favorite. And a great example of how Chiang can take something exciting and exotic (in this case, parallel universes) and mine the mundanity within---which is when a big idea can actually mean something.
Also worth mentioning (again), I love the author notes. I wish short-story writers outside the genres also wrote them.
more than two months but with a huge gap in the middle