Claimed visions, visitations, dreams and experiences similar to the one Joseph Smith began relating in the 1830s were not uncommon for the time:
1. Norris Stearns in 1815 published his own vision. “There appeared a small gleam of light in the room, above the brightness of the sun…” Norris saw two beings. “One was God, my Maker, almost in bodily shape like a man. His face was , as it were a flame of fire … Below him stood Jesus Christ my Redeemer, in a perfect shape like a man– His face was not ablaze, but had the countenance of fire, being bright and shining.”
2. Lorenzo Dow dreamed, “he was taken up by a whirlwind” He saw God sitting upon an ivory throne (apparently God is no environmentalist) and Jesus Christ was at his right hand. In fact, Brigham Young’s brother was named after this man.
3. Elias Smith reported that he had a morning vision in the woods in 1816. He said that, “While in this situation, a light appeared to shine from heaven…. My mind seemed to rise in that light to the throne of God and the Lamb…. The lamb once slain appeared to my understanding, and while viewing him, I felt such love to him as I never felt to any thing earthly.”
4. Benjamin Putnam from Vermont reported in 1821 that, “I instantly had a view as I thought , of the Lord Jesus Christ with his arms extended in an inviting posture.”
5. An unnamed universalist minister published an account saying, “I dreamed Christ descended from the firmament, in a glare of brightness, exceeding ten fold the brilliancy of the meridian Sun, and he came to me saying, ‘I commission you to go and tell mankind that I am come; and bid every man to shout victory.” This man went on to teach in Palmyra in 1825.
6.Asa Wild of Amsterdam NY was reported to have had a remarkable vision and revelation by the Palmyra newspaper.
7. Emanuel Swedenborg, who authored one of the most widely read occult works of the period, wrote, “On a certain night, a man appeared to him in the midst of a strong shining light, and said, ‘I am God the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer.” Swedenborg went on to converse with angels and spirits as if they were men after the vision.
8. Catharine Hummer, the founder of an American occult religion known as the Ephrata commune, claimed to have had several visions. In once she saw, “the Savior and the Father… These two, that Father and the Son stood together.”
9. Billy Hibbard claimed that he had a vision when he was just 11 years old in the late 1700s. He said, “When I came to the place of prayer , had kneeled down, and closed my eyes, with my hands uplifted toward the heavens, I saw Jesus Christ at the right hand of God, looking down upon me, and God the Father looking upon him.” He published his accounts all around Upstate New York where Joseph lived.
10. Benjamin Abbott had a popular account of his 1772 vision where the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him with his arms extended and said, “I died for you.” Abbot continues, “I then looked up and by faith I saaw the Ancient of Days, and he said to me, ‘I freely forgive thee for what Christ has done.'”
11. Richard Brothers published accounts of visions he had in the 1790s in New York and Pennsylvania. He claimed that “I was in a vision, and being carried up to heaven, the Lord God spoke to me from the middle of a large white cloud.”
12. David Brainerd’s conversion account was so popular between 1748 and 1835 that he published 25 editions. He said, “My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable to see such a God, such a glorious divine Being.”
Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview, D Michael Quinn.